(This is my first article for “Finding Your Voice in Journalism.” It’s supposed to be about something i hate. Note that i took liberties with the timeline to compress the article into the assigned length. Commentary is greatly appreciated.)
I suspect that as a rule most boys must hate shopping with their mothers. For me, shopping with mom always carried the weary, claustrophobic sensation of being trapped in a space much smaller than the boy’s department. I have always been subject to a special kind of terror: I am an only child, and with my mother as a single parent I really had no choice but to browse the racks with her in tow, thrusting patently ugly garments under my nose for examination and publicly questioning whether or not I needed to buy a larger size of underwear.
This year I found my nightmare playing itself out in two locations over my Christmas Vacation, both with their own special set of embarrassments. The first seemed simple enough; she had to make an exchange, and I wanted a pair of boot-cut jeans.
Of course, even my best laid plans go awry when shopping with mom; when I met her at the counter with my pants she proceeded to loudly lament that I was looking a wee bit chubby around the middle on Christmas morning, and that I might be wise to upgrade my accustomed waist size by an inch or two to accommodate my ever-expanding girth.
Though I neglected to refute her point about my weight-gain, as we edged closer to the cashier I reminded my mother that I had taken the same waist size in jeans since I started high school. Every single pair of jeans in my bureau were of the same dimensions as the contentious pair I was holding. They fit fine.
“That might be true,” she acknowledged, “but I won’t be the one whining when I get home to find that my jeans don’t fit well.” Never mind that I had tried them on. And, anyhow, “that’s what belts are for,” apparently, buying jeans that are too big for me to start with.
Since I was the one paying for this purchase, my opinion won out — although I found myself unconsciously sucking in my “gut” as I said hello to the girl behind the counter. As I stepped out of the store with my shopping bag in hand I breathed a mental sigh of relief: one down, one to go.
Our second spectacular shopping extravaganza took place in the discount warehouse of Syms, where I intended to find a suit jacket to wear on Co-op interviews. “I just need a jacket,” I told myself, “we’ll be in and out in a flash.”
Alas, it was not meant to be. Before I could even get my bearings amongst the overwhelming aisles of short, athletic, and double-breasted styles my mother had picked out two corduroy suit jackets that looked as though they were only making a brief stop in the store before an engagement at the Salvation Army. My solution to this problem was to brush past her to find my size, but she pursued, claiming that buying a jacket was positively wasteful when I could buy an entire suit instead.
I begrudgingly agreed with her, if only because she was paying for the shopping excursion. However, in my head I knew that she was prolonging our shopping trip by adding our pre-rehearsed waist-size argument to the already complicated decision between a short and a long cut.
Sure enough, my “in and out” turned into an excruciating three hour dilemma as I was bounced from size to size, offered peculiar suits with plaid-like pinstripes, and accosted by salespersons who did nothing to detract from my mother’s own general hovering and thoughtful fashion consulting.
All in all the experience was draining. Yes, there was shouting across the store. Yes, there were heads stuck in-between dressing room curtains. Yes, there was a rendition of the aforementioned waist-size drama. By the time we made it to picking out new shoes (“Might as well!”) and having alterations made (“They’ll do it while we have lunch!”) I found my psyche located somewhere between a thundering explosion and a teary resignation.
Never mind that I came out of both situations with clothing that looks good on me. All that sticks out in my mind is my absolute terror at entering a clothing store, and the childhood urge to either throw my level-best temper tantrum or to find a circular rack of clothing to hide inside. I know that my mother cares about me, and that she’ll always love me, but that doesn’t mean she had to ask me in a stage-whisper if I had worn out my underwear yet while we were in line at Kohls.
Or maybe it does. I suppose all of that is what mom’s are for.
(Any thoughts? Remember, this is being turned in sans the context of my blog, and it’s supposed to express hatred of something and a use of a distinctive journalistic voice. Responses of any kind are welcomed.)